I love looking at birds. I love getting outside, going for a walk, spying that tiny ball of feathers nearly invisible in the bushes or hiding in the grasses. On a really good day, I even have the thrill of adding a new species to my life list. But now that I’ve been birding for 16 years, I find myself looking for an additional challenge.
July is not the best time to go birding. The sweat drips from under your floppy hat and smears the view through your binos, and there’s a puddle soaking your shirt under your sling/backpack/fanny pack. It’s a challenge just carrying enough water to stay hydrated.
The birds aren’t cooperating, either. Most of the males have stopped singing now that they have their mates and their territories. Soon they’ll be molting out of their breeding plumage into something much duller and harder to identify. Some are already thinking about heading south, although they won’t actually leave town for a few more weeks.
Face it, you’re hooked. You didn’t think it would happen to you. All you wanted was to know the name of one bird. You naively picked up that field guide. Was that bird at the feeder a Black-headed Grosbeak? Or perhaps it’s a Spotted Towhee? Hmmm… there are so many birds in here. And they all look so interesting! You’re familiar with a few—Robins and Pigeons, House Finches and House Sparrows. But wait! Is that really a House Sparrow? Perhaps it’s a Black-throated Sparrow instead! And there are two kinds of goldfinches at your feeder? Better look more closely.
Then you realize that lots of those birds in the field guide never come to your backyard feeder. Where are they all? Maybe it would be fun to plan an outing to the local nature center. Better bring those binos, just in case.
One day you wake up and realize that what all began so innocently is now a full-fledged addiction. You’re a birder. Now what?
Once you have started finding and identifying birds, the natural next step is to want to keep a record of what you have seen. While not all birders keep lists, most do. Many keep more than one list. It all depends on your personality.